Life is a series of lessons. Every experience you have in life, every single one, will form you or shape you in some way. Some experiences make us better, more compassionate or successful; and some experiences are harmful, and make it hard for us to trust or have confidence in ourselves. What happens when an event in life teaches you a lesson, but it’s the wrong lesson?
Take this quote by Mark Twain for example, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.” The cat didn’t learn to sit on hot things, the cat learned not to sit on stoves. Wrong lesson.
In relationships that would be like getting cheated on by a redhead and instead of avoiding people who are likely to cheat, you avoid all redheads. Wrong lesson.
As absurd as this illustration seems, at some point you’ve probably taken the wrong assumptions from an experience you’ve had. When life has taught you the wrong lesson, you carry that belief system with you and it affects everything you do. The one that I have seen over and over again is when someone comes away from a bad relationship experience and concludes they are somehow unlovable and not worthy of love. That, most definitely, is the wrong lesson.
When you’ve been through a damaging period in life, it takes time and hard work to overcome the resulting harm. How can you check your understanding of the lessons you’ve learned? How can you consciously strive to unlearn the wrong lesson and replace the belief system you’ve adopted with something positive and helpful to you?
To begin, you will need to seek and accept feedback from others. It would be very hard to evaluate whether you are acting on beliefs from the wrong lessons in life without insight from other people. Talk with your peers or talk to a counselor. Open yourself to really hearing what they might say. Recognizing how and why you hold a particular outlook is the only way you might start to change that way of thinking.
Once you understand how a particular wrong lesson has fostered your behaviors or attitude you will need to adapt to a new belief system. This will take time. Cultivating a positive where once there was a negative or letting go of long-held insecurities isn’t easy. Start small and be kind to yourself. If you think you are unworthy of love because you’ve had a series of disappointing relationships, open a new belief in yourself by first loving yourself. Embrace who you are and know that you have value.
If you’ve held a certain conviction about yourself for a long while because you learned the wrong lesson from life experience, uncovering that truth can feel amazing. Now you are free to learn the right lesson.
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